The MIT researchers created a system called LaserFactory that can automate the process of making functional devices in a single system. LaserFactory produces customized functional devices and robots without human intervention. The unique system uses three ingredients, allowing users to create structural geometry, print strokes and assemble electronic components such as sensors and actuators.
Two main components work in harmony, including a software toolkit that allows users to design custom devices and a hardware platform that makes the devices. Researchers at MIT’s CSAIL say it is a “one-stop shop” that can be beneficial to product developers, manufacturers, researchers and educators. The system can be used to create prototypes of wearables, robots and printed electronics quickly.
The system takes advantage of widely available manufacturing platforms, such as 3D printers and laser cutters. LaserFactory is the first system that integrates these features and automates the complete pipeline for creating functional devices in a single system. Using the system, an end user can create his drone by designing the device and placing components from a parts library.
The system can draw circuit traces of copper or aluminum lines on a printed circuit board, allowing electricity to flow between the components. The geometry of the drawing is finished using a 2D editor, and the device can be equipped with batteries of propellers on the screen that are connected to make electrical connections creating a quadricopter shape.
Users would be able to preview the project before the software translated it into machine instructions. Once completed, all commands would be incorporated into a single manufacturing file, making the device at one time supported by standard laser cutting software. As the system is fully integrated, if you build a drone, it will be immediately ready to start a task. The team is currently working to increase the quality and resolution of the circuit traces to allow for more dense and complicated electronics.